Bloody bad for business

Violent crime, fuelled by unemployment, is raging in South Africa - deterring the very investment which might solve the problem, writes Alex Duval Smith

"YOU CERTAINLY do not want to send people to South Africa only to have them repatriated in body bags. It is definitely a turn-off," said Tony Twine, an economist reflecting on the impact of crime on foreign investment. He was speaking last Tuesday, shortly after a prominent South Korean businessman had been shot dead in Johannesburg.

"The statistics show that there has been a reduction or stabilisation in most serious crimes," said President Nelson Mandela on Friday when he addressed parliament in Cape Town. But the gallery seat reserved for James Bartleman, the Canadian high commissioner, was empty. He was in hospital with bruises and a broken nose after being mugged in his hotel.

South Africa is once again grappling with what sometimes seems like an awful punishment for its peaceful transition from apartheid state to multi- ethnic "Rainbow Nation". Just when the young democracy most needs the world's tourists and investors, it is labelled crime centre of the world.

Reliable statistics do not really exist but the African National Congress government is alarmed. It has tightened bail and parole conditions and clamped down on crime syndicates.

It desperately wants to remove the crime label and is considering legislation to curb drug-related money-laundering, another major problem since the country's borders opened up at the end of apartheid.

Willie Hofmeyr, a member of parliament's justice committee, said: "Statistics show we are getting crime under control and starting to turn the tide. Crime was a big problem before 1994 [when the ANC came to power]. It was just less visible, in that it was mainly confined to African and coloured areas.

"With the coming of democratic society, crime democratised along with it. It started affecting middle class and more prominent people, not only whites. We often forget that Cape Town was the murder capital of the world throughout the 1980s."

Yet a confidential South African Police Service overview of crime, leaked to the press last December, concluded that the police was in a state of virtual anarchy, as a result of corruption, mismanagement and a lack of financial, material and human resources. It warned that the country could descend into chaos if current tendencies persisted.

Cape Town was known briefly in the early 1990s as EsCape Town, because it was seen as safer than Johannesburg. The tag is used no longer. The sprawling Cape Flats, shanty town dwellings inland from the imposing city by the Cape of Good Hope, are home to powerful drug gangs which have recently reinvented themselves as "Jihad" fighters.

One such group, Muslims Against Global Oppression, is believed to have been responsible for the bombing on 25 August last year of the Planet Hollywood restaurant in the sedate Waterfront area. The attack, which killed two men and maimed five members of the Giddings family from Hampshire, was claimed to have been in retaliation for American air strikes against Sudan and Afghanistan after its Nairobi embassy was destroyed in a blast . There have been many incidents since then, including a shooting during a demonstration against Tony Blair's visit last month.

Most of South Africa's crime is related to the country's high unemployment rate. Tony Leon, leader of the opposition Democratic Party, said: "Twenty thousand South African crime victims who are not as well known as the Daewoo executive or the Canadian high commissioner would agree that the right to life is fundamental and that it has become compromised since the ANC took office in 1994. We have not only gutted the police force of good people but we have allowed 500,000 people to join unemployment queues."

Whatever the causes of the crime, their diagnosis comes too late for Kwon Yong-koo, 50-year-old president of Daewoo, who was shot dead in his car in Morningside Manor, Johannesburg, last week.

The murder - which may have been a failed car hijacking or a contract killing - prompted the Samsung and LG Groups to call on their expatriate staff to stay at home after dark. It also prompted Richard Newby, a director of Daewoo, one of the world's largest electronics and car manufacturers, to warn: "This is the worst thing to happen to South Africa. Hopefully the government will now do something about crime. We cannot tolerate crime any longer." Thirteen large Korean concerns have bases in Johannesburg and investments worth about $100m (pounds 61m).

BMW issued a similar warning last year, when it opened a car plant near Johannesburg. "Daily reports appear in our press of tourists and foreign businessmen suffering from acts of criminal elements in this country. These reports do not go unnoticed," said Bernd Pischetsrieder, former chairman of the German car giant.

In August 1996, Erich Ellmer, the German finance manager of AEG electronics, was murdered in an attempted car-jacking in Johannesburg. Earlier the same year, after Lebanon's charge d'affaires, Charbel Stephan, was burgled twice in 10 days, he memorably told the press that he would be safer in Beirut. "Johannesburg is a jungle. The problem in Beirut is political, not criminal. We don't lock our doors in Beirut. I am leaving and I'm not coming back. Maybe my government will send someone more courageous," he said.

Nerves of steel, indeed, are often required in this country, where private guards are hired to guard police stations in some neighbourhoods and schools routinely have high-voltage fences.

Guns and bullet-proof vests are everyday sights. They complement urban landscapes of high walls and razor wire in which human beings devise extraordinary means of protecting their possessions. Currently being advertised is The Blaster, a flame-thrower which can be fitted to most saloon cars and activated in the event of a threatened hijack. Another bizarre invention is The Autoport - a steel cage which can be locked around a vehicle while stationary.

Yet despite all the evidence which would appear to indicate the contrary, people still come to South Africa for the sun or for the cheap labour.

An Austrian delegation is visiting this week to explore business opportunities and South Africa - which makes 4.5 per cent of its gross domestic product from tourism - has just been listed the 25th most visited country in the world, just behind Ireland and ahead of Egypt.

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

EBD Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Science Teacher Greater Manchester

Humanities Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Humanities teacher required for ...

English Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ENGLISH TEACHER REQUIRED - Humbe...

Chemistry Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: We are looking for a Qualified C...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits